The Journey Begins – What is Time?

There are hundreds of books of the topic of Time; websites too many to count. Long before the ancient Greeks pondered the nature of time, humans have questioned its value, what it meant and how to count it. Yet even today, a hundred years after Einstein declared Time to be the fourth dimension (“spacetime”), there is no consensus on the meaning of this elemental and most basic of concepts.

Others have said:

  • Time is money (Benjamin Franklin)
  • Don’t waste Time
  • There is plenty of Time
  • Time is that which prevent events from happening at the same moment.
  • Time is woven into the fabric of our language and life
  • The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole (
  • Plan, schedule, or arrange when (something) should happen or be done (
  • Time is self-evident; 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in a hour, 24 hours in a day, 365.25 days in a year. Yet all we have done is created arbitrary labels as descriptive elements for an undefined concept – Time.

So after listening to well over forty contemporary books* on the nature of time published by the worlds’ top theoretical physicists, and following the thoughts of astronomers/cosmologists from Ptolemy to Copernicus to Newton and Hawking, the only statement I can make confidently is that there is no “unified theory” of Time and Time is assuredly and truly relative.

Over the next few months we will confront the mysteries and misgivings about Time in hopes of developing a workable and sensible Theory of Time. Please join me by sharing your thoughts and dreams.

 *Recommended reading to begin your quest:

From Eternity to Here, by Sean Carroll is a popular-level book on cosmology and the arrow of time, published by Dutton in January, 2010.

 The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, by Brian Greene, 2011


About Time, by Adam Frank 2011


Garrett Lisi has a new paper, “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything.”



5 thoughts on “The Journey Begins – What is Time?

  1. I`m not a scientist, don`t know math, but I had a thought. All the work, or the things that happen when you close a circuit require energy right? lightning want to go to ground, heat goes to cold, etc., everything is looking for a way
    to revert back to pre-bigbang. To go back in time we would need to go forward in time until the universe stops expanding and starts retracting and use that as your vehicle. Like a capacitor works with electricity.Does that make sense

    • I admire your thinking, and not only does it make sense; prior to the mid 1980’s many physicists took a similar position. Some history:
      – In the late 1920’s Edwin Hubble discovered that there were galaxies other than the Milky Way, and in 1929 saw that these distant galaxies were moving away from us. (Redshift Distance Law)
      – In 1957 Robert Dickie agreed with you. He argued that the density of the universe would eventually cause expansion to stop and the universe would collapse on itself.
      – The big break came in 1981 when 1981 Alan Guth proposed the “Inflationary Theory” of the universe. ( ) This discover ultimately proved that not only are galaxies moving away from us, but they are gaining speed and will forever gain speed. Some are receding at 25 million miles per hour.
      There are many more discoveries awaiting us – like Dark Matter and Dark Energy make up 96% of the universe. We are only aware of 4% of the matter in the observable universe.
      But for now the universe will end in whimper of vast cold darkness, not a Big Crush.
      Thank you.

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